'I lost my faith in mankind reading Lord of the Flies'

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I lost my faith in mankind reading Lord of the Flies

Talking books with Andrea Gissdal, Head of Communications and Marketing, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

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Published: Thu 10 Jan 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 11 Jan 2019, 1:00 AM

What are you currently reading?
I have several books on the go at the moment. I am simultaneously reading Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi, which is such a fascinating book about how rapidly the Muslim world is changing with more women joining the workforce than ever before. I am also reading The Lessons by Naomi Alderman, because I always have to have a book of fiction on my Kindle. I have read two of her books in the past - The Power and Disobedience - and they were fantastic.
A book that changed your life and shaped your outlook?
Every good book changes my life a little bit. If a book has the power to move you or teach you something, you are never the same person at the end of it as you were when you started reading it. But more concretely, I lost my faith in mankind when I read William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which is still one of my favourites. Then I regained my faith in humans when I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Recently, I've found Factfulness by Hans Rosling pretty useful for perspective.
Most memorable literary character?
There are so many memorable characters. Lyra Belacqua from Northern Lights by Philip Pullman springs to mind. Strong, resourceful, loyal, kind and brave, she has all the characteristics of a role model, and yet she is only 11 when we first meet her. When you are young and encounter her, she is the best friend you want and the person you want to be.
What sort of non-fiction do you read?
I veer between the entertaining, like The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson to general business and marketing books. Malcolm Gladwell straddles both, so I have enjoyed his books. I do try to read more widely, and that has paid off. Most recently, I was utterly blown away by Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri. I picked it up because she is one of the authors coming to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and didn't really know what to expect from it but it got me hooked straight away. There were so many passages that resonated so strongly with me that I had to take pictures of the pages (the modern way of note-taking). From expressing her fatigue and the mental strain of the pressure of running the Clinton campaign against Trump, to her thoughts on expressing emotion (people would regularly cry in her office to relieve the pressure, then carry on with their day), and her take on ageing (it is good, makes her feel grounded to see faces age), this book is so packed with gems.
Which are the books that you revisit from time to time?
Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, particularly in the winter. It is so atmospheric and transports me right back to when I first read it as a teenager. I also like to revisit some of the classics from time to time.
- Staff reporter

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